Accessing emergency dental care

Earlier this week, Quirke Dental Surgeons responded to a call for assistance on the Liveline RTE radio show hosted by Joe Duffy. An 81 year old lady in Portlaoise had a dental emergency and could not get seen in any of the 17 dental practices her daughter had called on her behalf.

We offered to help.

As a result, Dr. Maurice Quirke was interviewed by a number of local radio stations about emergency dental care.

Since Covid arrived on our shores in March of 2020, we have assisted patients in difficulty from 26 other dental practices and patients who have not had a dentist of their own as well as providing care for our own patients. We have always tried to help as many patients as we can.

This prompted some thoughts on how best to deal with an emergency.

It seems a bit obvious, but the best thing is to avoid an emergency in the first place. Regular dental care to ensure your teeth and gums are maintained in as healthy a condition as possible will help you avoid many many problems. It’s like servicing the car to keep it running well.

However, sometimes things just go wrong and accidents happen.

If pain occurs, use common analgesics such as paracetamol or ibuprofen as instructed on the packaging and call your dentist as early in the day as possible. Most dentists work to an appointment system and the best opportunity to get seen is to let them know about the problem as early as possible.

In our Practice, we have a specific process for dealing with emergency calls.

Reception staff will triage your case, when you call on the telephone, by asking you a series of questions about the nature of the problem, how long it has been present, where in your mouth it is etc. This process is designed to help us to prioritise what cases need treatment most urgently. All of the triage information is reviewed by a dentist to prioritise the cases. You may consider your case to be urgent but there may be patients who have more serious problems and who may need to be seen as a priority. We make decisions about these matters several times each day. We will then call back those patients who we determine are most in need of help.

We may not be able to offer you an appointment at the time you would like. This is because we are treating other patients, not because we are relaxing and drinking coffee.

We will not be able to offer appointments to everyone who calls us, we will prioritise our own patients for urgent care. If you are a patient with another dental practice, you should call them first.

If you are seeking emergency care on your Medical Card, please note that the responsibility for providing your care lies with the HSE. We do not partake in the Medical Card scheme and we cannot advise you where care may be accessed. You should call the HSE to get this information.

While the vast majority of patients are kind and understanding, very occasionally someone is rude or abusive to our Reception staff. Such behaviour will not be tolerated by us. Our staff are very well trained, work diligently to accommodate as many patients as possible and deserve to be treated with respect at all times.